Larry Ullman's PHP for the Web is unsurpassed as a beginner's guide to learning PHP. The book, for instance, covers many essential topics, such as variables, forms, sessions and cookies, numbers, and strings. Ullman furthermore provides excellent screenshots of the code to provide the macro, or `big picture', perspective while providing an explanatory break down of each piece of code for a micro perspective. Ullman also uses relevant examples that are necessary for making a professional Web site, including log-in pages and editing features for administrators. More importantly, Ullman's style of writing is instantly engaging, wondrously eloquent, and grammatically polished, making for a thoroughly enjoyable read of what might otherwise be considered a dry topic.
Prior to reading Larry Ullman's book, I read the entirety of a PHP manual by Kevin Yank, concluding the book with complete confusion and no practical skills. However, it appears that Yank has a new edition that might have some improved features. In addition to reading Yank's manual on PHP, I read Janet Valade's Dummies guide, which was the worst PHP manual imaginable, heavily laden with coding errors and misprints.
Larry Ullman's book is the ultimate guide for learning PHP for beginners. The logical progression from this book is Larry Ullman's PHP and MySQL for Dynamic Web Sites coupled with Rick Morelan's Beginning SQL Joes 2 Pros . After I finish reading Larry Ullman's second book in the series, PHP and MySQL for Dynamic Web Sites, I plan on tackling one of his subsequent books in the progression on how to make a shopping cart. Ullman also provides a book on advanced PHP, which follows his PHP and MySQL for Dynamic Web Sites book. Ullman is the master of providing easy-to-follow, comprehensive learning tools for programming in PHP; the Ullman series is a must for any beginner's library.